October 15 is an International advocacy day aimed to spread the awareness about the importance of practicing hand washing with soap and to enhance the sustainable hand washing habit. This year on global handwashing day, a virtual event of "Panel Discussion on Global Handwashing Day" was hosted and organized by WASH Thematic Group. The goal of the discussion is to contribute the knowledge and benefits of hand hygiene along with this year theme "Hand Hygiene for All" and to reach the aim of Sustainable Development Goal - SDG (6) clean water and sanitation.

The opening session of live streaming discussion is started with an educational video for hand washing day. Then, the panel discussion has continued by introducing the panelists of the event.

Is handwashing effective?

During the first part of the talk, the speakers highlighted the ways to promote hand washing habits for the people who have an immediate access to soap and water in their daily lives.

Firstly, Dr. Aye Chan Moe, a well-known celebrity, shared her visions on why hand washing with soap should be carried out as a simple and basic healthy habit.

Secondly, Dr. Phio Thiha, who is a reproductive health specialist and also an author, mentioned interesting facts relating to hand washing with soap. He especially discussed the infectious diseases such as stomach and intestinal infections, which can be spread by contaminated hands and the key times to perform hand washing to keep ourselves safe from the diseases.

Ways to Promote Hand Hygiene

After that, Ko Thu Rein Maung Maung as a member of WASH Thematic Group gave his perspective on cultivating hand washing practice for all ages and to ensure continued access to water and soap even after the global pandemic. He focused on sharing strategic approaches to develop hand washing practice and the use of appropriate technology in this hand hygiene promoting process. He also indicated the use of different psychological motives to enhance the behavior change concerning with handwashing and the essential of relevant environment in convincing to all ages to wash their hands. 

Female Participation in Hand Washing Sector

Dr. Aye Chan Moe brought her ideas forward to the role women in promoting hand hygiene as behavioural change becomes important. As a woman, regular hand washing is the essential thing and also the only easy and inexpensive fundamental healthy habit to possess a healthy life. And more importantly, she indicated that clean hands of mothers save their babies lives as the death rate of children under 5 years old is mainly because of diarrhea. She also briefly explained how the cleanliness of these four things including food, hand, water and sanitation plays as a vital role to possess a healthy lifestyle for all.

The last session of the panel discussion mainly emphasized on the aspects of private, public and celebrity's collaboration to raise the hand hygiene awareness.

Cooperative Action Scales Up Hand Hygiene

Then, Ko Thu Rein Maung Maung discussed the ideas for the communities with low access to proper hand washing facilities. He highlighted the goal of SDG (6); "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all" which indicated to all global population. There are around 10 millions people in Myanmar who are facing with water scarcity and around 6 millions of population are living with the lack of proper sanitation systems in accordance with the 2019 interim census. He explained the need of implementing supporting projects for them to meet the goal of SDG 6. He also mentioned the importance of the cooperation between public and private sectors, then, the vital role of private sector participation to achieve success in raising awareness among the societies with inadequacy of water resources and hand washing infrastructures.

After that, Dr. Phyo Thiha pointed out the role of private sector in encouraging hand washing actions. He discussed the abilities of the private sector and its opportunities to catch up.

Finally, Dr. Aye Chan discussed her opinions of the participation of celebrities in health education programs and her aspirations to corporate in these kinds of promoting health awareness campaigns as the concluding speech of the panel discussion.

In summary, the panel meeting in commemoration of Global Handwashing Day has successfully risen the awareness about hand washing with soap and the thoughtful ideas came out of the discussion will be a great help in implementing the mission of SDG (6).

 Written by Thidar Maung Maung

Watch the full live stream here.